Love at first sight
One of my friends gave me a little trinket – tiny Tajik knitted socks, that I carefully placed on my desk and had been looking at for half a year. They reminded me of my dream of going to Tajikistan, the country with warm hearts, high mountains and tons of meat.
And here I am, arriving, anticipating the love that’s coming. I dislike passport controls and customs, but here I am excited about the passport control man saying “Welcome to Tajikistan” and so I stand there, excitedly waiting. A Chinese man comes by, unable to communicate with a local airport worker. I offer my help and we engage in a lively conversation, he explains he does business here and if I understood correctly, it looks like he sells concrete. He also mentions the country is super poor and it is hard doing business here, and in the end gives me his number and invites for Chinese food. When the Chinese man is gone, a Tajik in front of me turns around and tells me I have the most beautiful eyes ever. He follows me to the baggage claim, kissing my hands, and continues to admire my eyes with the sweetest smile ever. I do not feel harassed as I normally do from the ugly comments of the border control people in Central Asia. His name is Jamshed and he gives me his phone number and it looks like he is ready to carry my bag and to even marry me eventually, but his smile fades away when he sees a friend meeting me at the airport and taking my bag from him.
Tajikistan, I have arrived! The airport of Dushanbe is cute and tiny, and I feel cozy riding in a car on small streets with no tall buildings. It is homey and relaxed, like in a village, no pressure whatsoever. The only thing that scares me is a lot of people who seem to want to throw themselves under our car. That’s how they cross the street in Dushanbe, everywhere “is allowed”, my friend Alibek explains.
We go to a local restaurant to eat plov, a traditional local dish made with rice, carrots and goat meat. I don’t even mind eating meat here, and we are lazily chatting under the fake grape leaves on the terrace. Excitingly fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, and sour cream that I have been missing in Thailand. September is almost over, the sun is warm and light, and I feel grateful for the weather, in Ukraine it’s probably raining and +10 only. Every friend I meet here tries to treat me for a meal and pay for me. They say I am a guest and I am not supposed to pay. I am uncomfortably accepting this hospitality.
When we head to my friend’s home we pass by a funny one person stand selling Faberlic make up, and he makes a funny comment they also have “Faberlic official representatives” here, pointing to the lady. Then we pass a stand made by Olya and Manya, two Tajik ladies who will help you with documents to apply for Russian citizenship. Apparently, many Tajiks want to apply for a Russian passport as it is more user friendly in many parts of the world than a Tajik one.
The evening ends with tea, music and grapes. Other friends of Alibek come and they play music together and we sit on a kurpacha, a traditional Tajik mattress, listening to music and talking about life. My first day in Dushanbe could not be better. Tajikistan, you may be not so financially well off, but you are rich with people who have warm hearts, and I say thank you for this.